There are definite advantages to having been a quiet child who preferred the company of senior adults to the company of peers. One of these advantages is having heard first hand the stories of my grandparents.

These stories help me remain hopeful in spite of the facts that:

  • In December 2008 the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the United States has been in recession since December 2007.
  • Many economists and financial advisors have stated that this recession could be the worst since the Great Depression (1929-1940).
  • Many are saying that we may well be heading for a new depression.

I personally can attest to how the economy is impacting my family, business and many personal friends. Some have lost as much as 60% of their investments and others have lost or are in process of losing their jobs and are struggling to find new work or moving to keep jobs that are relocating.

However, I remain hopeful mainly because of faith in God and also because I remember the stories of my grandparents.

During the Great Depression my mother’s father went door to door and sorted through trash bins for used tin cans to sell back so he could buy evaporated milk for his two infant daughters. At the same time his own Finnish mother crocheted and sewed brightly colored “piece work” (aprons, slips, table cloths and doilies) to make money to help keep the family going. Then later as the family grew to include two boys, all six went each summer to farms around Portland, Oregon. They picked hops, green beans and any other produce that was in season just to make enough money to keep food on the table. The girls would move the plump baby brother along the row as they picked making certain to always keep the happy sun-bonneted child within arms’ reach.

At the same time, my paternal grandparents drove cross country in a Model T Ford with three children from Ithaca, New York to the Oregon Coast where a job was waiting in a lumber camp that was owned by my Irish great-grandfather. (The lumber camp was in an area that just a few years later was consumed by the Tillamook Burn.) Some of the dirt roads on that cross country trip were nothing more than elongated mud pits and so Grandpa and Grandma took turns driving the car and laying out plywood planks in front of the tires to drive over. They would then run back behind the car to pick up the planks and move them again to the front of the car and keep driving in this manner until the muddy stretch was passed. Then when they hit dry road the planks were tied to the top of the vehicle until another muddy stretch required their use again. Once the family arrived at the camp the five of them lived in a cabin tent (like those still sold today at Rainier Tents). Decades later Grandma would still say she was so proud because she had the “best tent in camp”. Afterall, it was “the only cabin that had lineoleum flooring” and she kept it “absolutely spotless”.

I also remember hearing the stories from both families regarding friends they made during those difficult times and how faith, friendship, and family got them through episodes of not even knowing how the next meal would be supplied. Friends like a couple who came from the old country (Italy) and later settled in Yamhill County and remained family friends until they passed in their eighties and nineties.

While I know that the economy is in serious trouble, I take comfort in knowing that plucky Americans before me have weathered even more troubled times and that they later remembered those times fondly. I also am confident that if today we keep faithful and continue to support one another and our community, we can carry on and help make an environment where children feel safe and loved.

I sincerely believe that we can move from a position of believing we are entitled to more than we can afford to being thankful for how God, friends and family help us carry on even through what we feel may be the worst of times.

On a lighter note I hope you enjoy the stories of simple pleasures that follow; as pets, cheese and music are comforts even in the worst of times.